The National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) has launched a new simplified mobile payment solution for self-employed informal sector workers. The mobile payment solution will allow self-employed informal sector workers registered under NAPSA to make social security contributions to NAPSA from anywhere within Zambia using a mobile phone without the need for internet connectivity. The platform was launched at Magoye Cooperative Society in Mazabuka during the field visit by the Steering Committee of the Spireworks project on Wednesday 5th May 2021. At the same function, the Zambia Industrial Commercial Bank disbursed the first loans to eligible small-scale farmers under the newly developed tailormade NAPSA benefits package for the informal sector which includes the standard pension, invalidity and survivors benefits and short-term benefits namely, access to credit, maternity and family funeral grant among others .
Speaking during the launch NAPSA Director General, Mr. Yollard Kachinda said the new payment solution for the informal sector will easy payment of contributions and attract more informal sector members.
“This flexible payment solution will allow farmers to pay for both the future and previous contributions as and when they get a cash windful without any penalties on previous contributions. The access to credit product is another important inclusion into the package to support the famers with access to farm inputs by making funds available to them. All these products have been driven by members’ desires,” he said.
He added that extending social security coverage to the informal sector was NAPSA’s way of contributing to the realization of Government’s objectives as outlined in the Seventh National Development Plan, which focuses on social security as one of the tools for poverty alleviation and economic development. He thanked all the partners for coming on board.
Meanwhile, the Zambia Industrial Commercial Bank announced during the same function that it had put aside K2 million to be accessed by farmers in ten pilot sites in Southern and Copperbelt provinces. The Bank would use the pilot results to come up with the best model that will be rolled out to the rest of the country as part of the new NAPSA informal sector benefit package.
International Labour Organization Country Director for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique George Okutho commended NAPSA for undertaking such exciting initiatives to make social security and financial services accessible to farmers. Mr. Okutho said that Zambia had now become a shining example of accelerating social security in Africa.
“The realization of this unique product offering has been made possible by the partnership between the National Pension Scheme Authority and the Zambia Industrial Commercial Bank who have undertaken numerous engagements with potential beneficiaries to have hands-on understanding of the environment, as well as the farmers livelihood and business needs. In other words, the benefit packages reflect the real needs of the farmers,” he said.
Mr. Okutho called on the farmers to take advantage of the financial offerings and make productive investments in their farming initiatives, as well as to make savings for their retirement.
The Finish Deputy Head of Mission Jan Koivu called on the project implementers to consider gender mainstreaming to make sure that women were not left out.
And in his keynote address, Ministry of Labour and Social Security Permanent Secretary, Mr Chanda Kaziya, who is also Spireworks Steering Committee Chairperson, commended NAPSA and its partners the National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland, the International Labour Organisation and the Dairy Association of Zambia for working together and developing solutions which would support farmers in their day-to-day activities. Mr Kaziya said providing access to loans by farmers, whose incomes are very low and irregular and easily affected by the weather pattern, will help to boost their businesses.
“The major challenge faced by the informal sector and small-scale farmers in particular is lack of access to affordable credit. This benefit package could therefore not have come at a better time than this when the country is facing significantly high interest rates,” he said.
Mr. Kaziya said government recognised social security as an important tool for poverty alleviation and economic development and pledged maximum government support for the successful implementation of the project.
The National Pension Scheme Authority is implementing the project dubbed “Spireworks” (Social Protection for Informal and Rural Economy Workers) with technical support from ILO and Finland in partnership with Dairy Association of Zambia and the Zambia Industrial Commercial Bank, among others, The project is part of the broader Extension of Coverage to the Informal Sector (ECIS) project which is aimed at extending social security to five priority sectors namely bus and taxi drivers, sawmillers, marketeers, domestic workers and small-scale farmers. The Spireworks project is expected to be rollout out to more farmers in the country before the end of 2021.